Talent in the Trenches


The greatest, and perhaps most overlooked, source of talent and inside hotel information can be found in the people who are carrying out the day to day tasks in the hotel. The person who knows the most about how efficient, profitable, and customer-pleasing your policies and processes are is the person who is using them every day to do their job.

There are two major reasons this source of knowledge can be overlooked by management, one when bringing on outside managers who may have little experience in the hospitality but have proven to be successful problem solvers. The need to establish themselves as a leader will often prevent asking for help from the people they manage.

Second, even field-proven industry warriors overlook talent in the trenches because they’ve been there, done that, wrote the book on it. However, there are many changes over time in the way daily operations are carried out. A guy who started as a bellhop twenty years ago and worked his way up to general manager may not have experienced the new PMS bogging down when twenty people are standing in line to check in. Or perhaps he’s never seen the confused look on a guest’s face when every staff member they encounter utters the brand standard three sentence long welcome phrase. These are the kinds of insights only those using it every day can provide.

So when do you go to your staff for ideas? All the time. Set up a program that rewards good ideas, encourage your employees to share them, and recognize them personally when they do. If you have a consistent top performer, that person should be steadily moving up the ladder. More importantly, gather their input before making executive decisions. Is your brand designing new software? Ask every front desk member to weigh in first, then have them test it before brand implementation. Are you considering a scripted message or property run-down that staff will need to say to guests? Ask them to test it out first. It could be that the two-minute interaction slows down the line so much that guests are feeling more frustrated than welcome. Buying new maintenance equipment? Have the employees at your smallest and largest properties try it for a few weeks and give their feedback. Bottom line, if your decisions are going to impact the daily life of your guests or your staff, it’s time to start asking questions.

Hotels that recognize talent in the trenches have more loyal employees. They have people who feel confident and competent in their jobs, who know that good work on their part has a direct impact on the success of the company as well as their own career growth. If their ideas are being recognized and implemented, they will feel an ownership in the hotel itself and want to work toward maintaining success.

It should go without saying, but a happy workforce means happy guests. If every member of your staff feels so strongly about helping the company to succeed that they view each guest interaction as moving forward or moving backward depending on how it’s handled, guest experience will take a gigantic leap.

People doing the work know more about the work than anyone else. Even if those in leadership have been in the trenches in the past, it may not be the same work now as it was then. Technology changes, guests change, processes change. Chances are, you have diamonds in the rough throughout your staff. They love hospitality as much as you, or even more. Find them, recognize them, use them as an example to foster talent throughout your organization, promote them, train them to do the same, and reap the rewards.